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An Island

An Island

Regular price Rs648.00 NPR
Regular price Rs720.00 NPR Sale price Rs648.00 NPR
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Longlisted for the Booker prize, Jennings’s allegory of a lighthouse keeper and an uninvited guest grapples with colonialism and the plight of refugees.

Karen Jennings’s An island is a remarkable novel, fully deserving the buzz of excitement it has stirred up. Longlisted for the Booker Prize, it was published jointly by independent publishers Holland House in the UK and Karavan Press in Cape Town. “It’s the same old story all over again,” said Karina Szczurek, publisher at Karavan, pointing a finger there and here, meaning that local writing still has to depend on European approval before it gets the attention it deserves at home. Little has changed since the 19th century.

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“It’s the same old story all over again,” said Karina Szczurek, publisher at Karavan, pointing a finger there and here, meaning that local writing still has to depend on European approval before it gets the attention it deserves at home. Little has changed since the 19th century.

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All credit, then, to the Booker Prize judges, who recognised quality when they saw it. It hasn’t reached the shortlist, but much good has already been done, with good sales, editions coming out in Australia and Nigeria, and the creation of a prize for new work – the An Island Prize – by the novel’s publishers. An island has won its place in South African fiction and beyond.

So, what is it all about? An island is a courageous, searching, disturbing novel of our time, a time when refugees die on the beaches of countries reluctant to receive them, and when postcolonial states, having failed, become more and more authoritarian and malevolent. Not many South African writers of Jennings’s generation are tackling such questions – not within the terms of realism, nor with such candour. How South Africa fits into the broad geopolitical situation in the novel is a question worth exploring, but first, let’s take stock of the novel’s literary self-positioning.

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